EEF demonstrates Asia Pacific countries’ desire to expand partner relations with Russia
26 September 2018. PenzaNews. 175 agreements for a total of 2.9 trillion rubles were signed during the 4th Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok attended by more than 6,000 delegates from 60 countries and 1,300 media representatives. This statement was made by Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of the Russian Federation in the Far Eastern Federal District, Yuri Trutnev at the final press conference of the event on September 13.
According to him, contracts worth over 1.3 trillion rubles were signed at the first Eastern Economic Forum, 1.8 trillion rubles – at the second EEF, and 2.5 trillion rubles – at the third EEF.
Yuri Trutnev stressed that in 2018, the most significant contracts were on the implementation of the investment project to develop the Baimskaya ore zone in Chukotka Autonomous Area, an agreement on the consignment of aircrafts by Aeroflot, and Novatek project on the construction of a terminal for transshipment and storage of liquefied natural gas.
He also noted that this year the largest foreign delegation has arrived to the EEF from China – almost 1,100 people; and all in all more than 340 heads of foreign companies and 383 heads of Russian companies participated in the forum.
The key event of the EEF was a plenary session named “The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities” with the participation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Mongolian leader Khaltmaagiin Battulga, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon.
Speaking at the plenary session of the Forum, Vladimir Putin expressed his confidence that “the new role of the Far East as the driving force of the national economy, innovations and culture will continue to expand in the years to come.”
“In the past five years, from 2013 until 2017, the region’s industrial output soared by almost 22 percent, considerably exceeding the average national levels. Today, the region accounts for over 25 percent of all direct foreign investment in Russia. This is quite impressive considering that this share totaled only about two percent five years ago,” Russian President said.
He also stressed that in order to ensure steady development, we need stability, peace and security in the Asia-Pacific Region.
“It is essential that we prevent new conflicts from emerging and resolve old ones in the spirit of dialogue. Russia has always stood for this approach and promoted a constructive agenda on all international platforms, and is committed to doing so in the future,” Vladimir Putin said.
“We strongly believe that in order for our region to achieve high growth rates and remain a key force in international economics and trade, it needs to preserve the spirit of economic freedom and facilitate business initiatives free of sanctions, bans or political bias,” he added.
Commenting on the results of the event, Lak Chansok, Researcher at Cambodia Maritime Silk Road Research Center (CMSRRC), the Royal University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia and at Democracy Promotion Center, Research Center for Asia Pacific Studies (RCAPS), Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Japan, pointed out the relevance of the issues raised at the EEF.
“The Forum was also held to discuss a wide range of significant and pressing issues including international cooperation, inclusive development, industry priorities, tools to support investors, and measures to improve living conditions in the region. The forum is also very significant for Russia to enhance its strategic position in the Asia Pacific by enhancing its bilateral ties with such countries as China, Mongolia, Japan, South Korea, and ASEAN countries,” the analyst told PenzaNews.
He also added that Russian-Chinese cooperation, in which more than 30 projects worth 200 billion rubles are already being implemented in the Far East, has even greater prospects.
“Amidst the growing protectionism and strategic engagement of the US in the region, Russia has taken a bolder approach to work with China in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative as Russia also aims to develop and expand its physical infrastructure connectivity such as railways, the Far Eastern ports, and the Northern Sea Route,” Lak Chansok explained.
From his point of view, the participation of Japan in the Forum this year signals the growing importance of Japan-Russia relations.
“Before the Forum, President Putin and Prime Minister Abe visited the Russian-Japanese engine plant in the Primorye Territory, launched conveyor for the production of motors and announced that both countries were committed to promoting a positive cooperation agenda,” the expert reminded.
Meanwhile, in his opinion, ASEAN plays an important role for the development of the Russian economy and the strategic role of the country in the region.
“Russia is pushing for revitalization of the Far East based on the fundamental principles of free trade, competition and mutual benefits despite the fact that the US has recently been increasingly protectionist and ultra-nationalist in pursuit of what Trump called a ‘free and fair’ trade to eliminate its growing trade deficit and to materialize ‘America First’ […]. It is worth noticing that ASEAN is increasingly important as the balance of power is shifting from the West to the East and that Russia should take this opportunity to advance its engagement in the region,” Lak Chansok explained.
Meanwhile, Shankaran Nambiar, Senior Research Fellow at Malaysian Institute of Economic Research in Kuala Lumpur, shared the opinion that the Forum was successful.
“Russia has been successful in gaining the participation of China, Japan and South Korea – these are the economic giants of Asia. Thus, Russia is gaining strength in deepening its network with North-East Asia. The EEF continued to enjoy the support of the Japanese premier; and what is more interesting is the fact that China was represented by its president. China’s enthusiasm is a big gain for Russia, giving China another point of diversification from the US,” the analyst said.
Meanwhile South-East Asia was significantly absent in terms of its presence at the EEF, with the exception of Singapore, he said.
“Singapore has had the foresight of organising a Russia-Singapore business Forum. This Forum will be chaired by no less than its deputy prime minister, Tharman Shanugaratnam, indicating the importance it attaches to the collaboration. The other South-East countries seem to lack the foresight or capacity to engage with Russia,” Shankaran Nambiar said.
In turn, Nobuhide Hatasa, Professor, Nagoya University of Economics, also drew particular attention to the participation of the PRC leader in the Eastern Economic Forum.
“Xi Jinping’s participation was finally realized after four times Putin’s requests which had been made every year since 2015. Not only did Moscow more enthusiastically than ever encourage an active participation of Xi this time, but Beijing also had enough reasons to accept the offer at this right occasion,” the expert explained.
He reminded that the Kremlin and the White House are still in sharp conflict with each other.
“Though Putin has been searching for the solutions to improve the relationship with the US after the Russian-Ukrainian dispute over Crimea, the situation is not optimistic at all. Moscow could no longer retain a wait-and-see attitude against Washington when Trump administration imposed new sanctions against Russia in August in order to accuse its chemical attack held in Britain while the Kremlin has been completely denying its involvement,” Nobuhide Hatasa explained.
In his opinion, Putin was quite successful to make this year’s EEF “a landmark international event that showed off Russia’s proactive intention to further deepen the bilateral ties with China.”
“Russian military exercise with the participation of Chinese troops held at the same time of the 4th EEF near Vladivostok definitely delivered this sort of Moscow’s strong message to the US and the other concerned nations,” the Japanese analyst stressed.
“China has been sharing the similar frustrations against the US to those of Russia as Beijing is fighting a trade war with Washington and the third tariff attack is about to be launched by the Trump administration. The size of next trade sanction that President Trump is currently preparing will be much larger […], amounting to approximately $200 billion worth of Chinese products. Moscow’s invitation to Beijing to join in the 4th EEF and Vostok 2018 military drills were therefore rather timely and welcome for China,” Nobuhide Hatasa added.
According to Termsak Chalermpalanupap from the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, the economic Forum in Vladivostok confirmed that several poles of power are being formed on the planet again.
“This is yet another historic event which confirms that the world is a new multi-polar world in which government leaders are keen to promote trade and economic cooperation for mutual benefit – not just for winning it all for one country or one economy. The fact that Russian President Valdimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended the 4th EEF in Vladivostok attests to the growing importance and relevance of this Forum,” the expert said.
In his opinion, Moscow has great potential in increasing its trade and economic ties in the Asian region.
“Russia has one very important natural resource that all its Eastern partners need: petroleum resources. Russia can also play an important role in defending free trade and promoting multilateral economic cooperation through increasing ties with its like-minded partners in the East,” Termsak Chalermpalanupap said and added that there is no hidden discrimination in the East against Russia, unlike in Western Europe.
Commenting on the fact that there were not many representatives from the South-East Asia at the Forum, the expert drew attention to a number of circumstances explaining this state of affairs.
“Unfortunately, this year the Forum coincided with the World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Hanoi, 11–13 September; and it also overlapped with the annual China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, 12–15 September. This is why no ASEAN leaders could attend the Forum in Vladivostok,” he explained.
“Russia has the great potential to be one of the leading players in international dialogue and cooperation for common interest. This is one new dimension of diplomacy that Russia can put more emphasis on, just like China has been doing and the US has been neglecting,” the analyst concluded.